AP NEWS

4th annual Walk-A-Mile event helps raise awareness of sexual violence

April 8, 2019

DeKALB – Shoe shopping was not an easy task for Jerry Lane of Sycamore.

Not only did he have to find shoes in the right size, but the shoes also had to be comfortable and stylish. He decided to buy a pair of black high heels with a decorative jeweled buckle.

Lane bought the shoes to wear while participating in Safe Passage’s fourth annual Walk-A-Mile event Saturday at the Sycamore High School field house.

More than 200 people attended the family-friendly event, which kicked off Sexual Violence Awareness Month. During the event, participants put themselves in the shoes of a survivor by walking a mile – eight laps inside the field house – while wearing high heels.

Walk-A-Mile was held to raise awareness about sexual violence and to raise funds for Safe Passage, DeKalb County’s only domestic violence and rape crisis center.

“There’s not one motive why I’m participating in the event, there’s several: the women in my life, including my mother, sister, wife, two daughters and four granddaughters,” Lane said. “I’ve spent 50 years in the mental-health business, and we often focus on the victims. But the victims are not the problem, the problem is men and our culture.”

Lane, speaking with Art Bingham of DeKalb, said that the decision to wear heels during the event stresses that rape “is not about what you’re wearing, how old you are or how attractive or unattractive you are, it’s a way to exert power over someone else.”

“High heels have become a sexual icon, a fetish, which is so twisted because we become more vulnerable when you wear them,” said Bingham, who is on the Safe Passage board of directors. “Putting on heels and participating in the walk is our attempt to shift and make a change in our culture.”

Lynnea Erickson Laskowski, Safe Passage’s director of prevention and communication, said that the event helps “shatter the stereotype that blames victims for what happened to them.”

“Sexual violence can be a spectrum of behaviors from harassing language to physical assault and rape,” Erickson Laskowski said. “This event is a way for the community to stand together against sexual violence and wear the shoes of a victim and walk a mile.”

After the mile walk, an after-party at Fatty’s Pub and Grille in DeKalb featured an award ceremony to recognize the largest team and two DeKalb County “Shoeper Heroes,” Cmdr. Steve Lekkas with the DeKalb Police Department and Sgt. Justin Kness with the Sycamore Police Department.

Other upcoming events hosted by Safe Passage for Sexual Violence Awareness Month include Take Back the Night on April 16 and the “Voices” art gallery debut on April 30.

Take Back the Night will be from 6 to 8 p.m. April 16 at the Egyptian Theatre, 135 N. Second St., DeKalb. Participants can stand with survivors of sexual violence, march through downtown DeKalb and listen as survivors share their stories.

The “Voices” art gallery debut will be from 6 to 8 p.m. April 30 at the DeKalb Area Women’s Center, 1021 State St., DeKalb. More than 15 pieces of art created by survivors of sexual violence will be on display. Light refreshments will be served.

“We truly appreciate the brave men and women that attended the Walk-A-Mile event and walked a mile in heels,” Safe Passage Executive Director Mary Ellen Schaid said. “I want to thank everyone that came out and showed their support. I can’t stress how much their support helps us raise awareness of sexual violence.”

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse or assault, call the Safe Passage crisis hotline at 815-756-5228. Operators are standing by 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.